Supersensitivity to substance P and physalaemin in rat salivary glands after denervation or decentralization



Substance P, a putative neurotransmitter in mammals, and physalaemin, present in the skin of an amphibian, are both undecapeptides and belong to the family of tachykinins. The secretory effect of these tachykinins on parotid and submaxillary glands of the rat was examined. Dose-response curves showed that in the unoperated glands maximal secretory responses were obtained to an intravenous dose of 5–10μg/kg of the tachykinins, that the amount of saliva secreted from the submaxillary gland was twice that from the parotid gland, and that physalaemin was more potent than substance P. Parasympathetic denervation of the parotid gland and decentralization of the submaxillary gland caused a marked sensitization to the tachykinins, as judged by lowered threshold doses for secretion and increased secretory responses to a series of submaximal doses 3 weeks postoperatively. Sensitization was less marked after sympathetic denervation and decentralization; in the parotid gland decentralization caused, in fact, no sensitization while in the submaxillary gland the degree of sensitization was about the same after the two types of operation. The tachykinins acted directly on the gland cells and the effect was not exerted via cholinergic, α-adrenergic or β-adrenergic receptors. The pattern of sensitization to the tachykinins, found in the present study, after the different types of operation is similar to that previously found to cholinergic and α-adrenergic agonists and different from that to a β-adrenergic agonist. Studies by others have shown that in the rat parotid gland peptidergic receptors share a common intracellular pathway with cholinergic and α-adrenergic receptors, whereas β-adrenergic receptors use another pathway. In the present study it is suggested that this intracellular arrangement is of importance for the development of supersensitivity.